Interestingly, however, Trump continues to do something perhaps unexpectedly among Black voters: Hold his own against Biden relative to many people’s expectations.
There have been over 10 national live interview polls since the protests began for which I could assess Black voter sentiment in the presidential race. Altogether, we’re looking at well more than 1,000 interviews.
Biden leads in those polls by an 83% to 8%, or 75-point, margin. That, of course, is a huge advantage for Biden, but it also represents a small improvement for Trump since 2016.
Hillary Clinton was ahead of Trump by a 79-point margin among Black registered voters in the pre-election polls taken right before the 2016 election, as compiled by the New York Times’ Nate Cohn. Biden, for what it’s worth, is equaling Clinton’s 83% in those polls. Trump’s picking up a lot of the vote that went to third-party candidates.
Given the way margins of error work (i.e. it gets smaller as the result gets more extreme), this slight improvement for Trump from 2016 is statistically significant.
Biden currently has such a large lead overall that Trump’s small gain among Black voters doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of the 2020 election. But if the race for president tightens, Trump’s small gain with Black voters could make a difference. It could cost Biden 0.5 points nationally on the whole compared to where Clinton ended up. That may not seem like a lot, though it could make the difference in a close election. And, of course, Biden’s margin with Black voters may tighten further if the margin with other voters also shifts.
Historically, Trump is doing as well and probably even a touch better than Republicans normally do among Black voters. While we don’t have a bulk of pre-election polling for many prior years like we do for 2016, the American National Election Studies pre-election polls show that since 1964, the average Democrat has earned 86% to the average Republican’s 6%. That 80-point margin is wider than the current 75-point margin Biden current earns.
(Other post-election surveys, which don’t make for as good of comparisons because pre-election polling has undecideds, also suggest that the Biden-Trump is smaller than the Clinton-Trump gap.)
Moreover, it doesn’t seem that Black voter sentiment overall has changed since the protests began in late May. An average of polls dating back to early April gives Biden the same 83% to 8% lead he has in more recent polls.
This confirms other studies that show that Biden’s gains since the protests began have been concentrated among White voters. As I noted last month, Biden seems to be doing considerably worse than Clinton among Hispanic voters.
When you dig a little bit deeper, you see that Biden doesn’t seem to be as well liked as Clinton was among Black voters. An average of six live interview polls taken since late May have his favorable rating at 74% to an unfavorable rating of 15% among Black voters. Clinton, on the other hand, averaged an 81% favorable rating to 13% unfavorable rating in the pre-election polls taken right before the 2016 election.
This comes as Biden is vastly more popular than Clinton was overall. In these same polls, Biden’s net favorability rating (favorable - unfavorable) currently stands at +3 points. Clinton’s was -13 points at the end of the 2016 campaign. Again, the big shift toward Biden has been caused by White voters.
Trump, if anything, is slightly more popular than he was among Black voters. His net favorability among Black voters is at -76 points, better than the -81 points he had at the end of the 2016 campaign. This matches prior polling indicating Trump’s job approval rating was a little higher among Black voters than you might expect given his performance with them in the 2016 election.
The good electoral news for Biden, however, is that there are a lot more White voters in the country than either Black or Hispanic voters. Moreover, White voters also make up a disproportionate share of the electorate in the swing states, especially in the Great Lake battleground states. This helps to explain why Biden’s doing quite well nationally and in those particular swing states.
Furthermore, Biden’s strong gains with White voters relative to Black and Hispanic voters is another reason why his path to the White House may go through the Great Lakes than the Sun Belt, where Blacks and Hispanics make up larger shares of the vote.